Re: Combine hives or make two queen system
I would strongly suggest checking out Support/Resource hives (Michael Palmer type design- two queen system). Dadant has a great one that's already assembled. Since your weak hives may not have anything to do with having a weak queen it would be great to put them in a setup they can succeed in. I have two of them. Your instincts to put them in something smaller to start are spot on. I would also put them on drawn comb if you have it and feed feed feed. I successfully over wintered a mid August swarm in one half of that bad boy. Highly recommended.
I'm smart but at the end of the day I'm still the help.